TANTRUMS: The Serenity Triangle

In the past I felt annoyed by the whole – “Don’t Do, Just Be” brigade. I could never understand what was wrong with doing. If I didn’t have ambitions and plans, and work each day towards those goals – how would things ever get done and how could I change my life for the better? How could I change my kids’ behaviour if it wasn’t what it needed to be, without action? How could I make the world see what I could see, without convincing or agitating or debating or reasoning or…involvement of my ego/identity/sense of self?

Then I realised, and learned to accept, that it wasn’t the ‘doing’ that was the problem, it was the ‘forcing’  or ‘convincing’ that was. It was being embedded in Drama Triangles and wanting things to go according to my agenda that was the problem. Urgency and panic were the obstacles. Needing to be right was the problem. Needing to be good was the problem. Needing to be blameless was the problem.

All living in a Drama Triangle did was create more stress and exasperation, more frustration, more conflict, more despair, more tension and more overwhelming sense of exhaustion – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m over Drama Triangles.

So, today I invented The Serenity Triangle. It’s an alternative choice to living inside a Karpman’s Drama Triangle. We can all choose to be on one triangle or the other, and we can choose to change back and forwards if we want to. Karpman’s Drama Triangle for tantrums (or other conflict situations) is covered in my post here: TANTRUMS: Do You Make Them Worse or Help Them Ease?.

The Serenity Triangle looks like this:

serenity triangle

Acceptance replaces Denial

We accept that there is something going on here; we accept that someone or some people are not happy about what’s going on; we accept that something needs to be done or a boundary needs to be held; we accept that there are certain laws of physics and society that are what they are; we accept that everyone involved in the triangle has a role to play and will do so as they see fit and/or are able to. We accept that some people might be more happy on the Drama Triangle because it’s familiar, comfortable and/or easier to just do what they’ve always done before.

We might feel empathic or any other emotion but we are not emotionally enmeshed with anything/anyone else in the event or situation. We can accept the situation as is as it is, not as we are.


Brace and ‘I’m Firm’ replace Persecutor and ‘I’m Right’

There are some things that just are. If you step on a nail it will hurt and most likely you will bleed. If you get muddy, you need to get clean again. If you use your manners and consideration, people like you more than if you don’t. If you eat certain foods, there will be a reaction in your brain and body. The person in the Brace Position holds the boundary firmly. This does not mean enforcing ones will on another person, but understanding the bigger picture and preventing some consequences: we wear boots so that we don’t get injured; we get clean so that we stay healthy and don’t soil stuff that is already clean; we use our manners as they are the oil that help make society run smoothly; we eat well so that our bodies and brains can function properly. In a Brace Position we are emotionally detached from any need to be right; we are simply holding a boundary because we have greater experience or knowledge than the person (of any age) who is in the Receiving Position.

We might believe we are correct and will hold our ground but we are not emotionally enmeshed with anything/anyone else in the event or situation. We can accept the Receiver’s need for a boundary and brace against their response, without being pulled into their drama.

Nurturer and ‘I’m Loving’ replace Rescuer and ‘I’m Good’

We can be kind and still hold a firm position. Our nurturing or loving someone doesn’t mean that we have to help them. We don’t have to do anything. We just have to be there and support. Boring Cuddles (Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing.)are the ultimate strategy for this position. Also, we can say things like: “I know you’d like to wander around the workshop in bare-feet”; “I know you’d rather not have a shower”; “I know you don’t like eye-contact or to say thankyou”; “I know you’d like to eat chocolate all day long.” Or “ It would be fun to…” or “Isn’t it a shame that….“ In the Nurturing Position we are emotionally present but not enmeshed – their stuff is not our stuff. We get to be detached and they succour from us: we listen without interrupting; we give Boring Cuddles; we say empathic things; we make juicy and non-intrusive eye-contact. We don’t do anything that removes the Receiver from the tough/unpleasant/uncomfortable short-term consequence but we help them through it…if they want help and in the manner they want help.

We might feel empathic or satisfied with our ability to help but we are not emotionally enmeshed with anything/anyone else in the event or situation. We can accept the Receiver’s need for support and truly support them through the process, without being pulled into their drama.

Receiver and ‘I’m Absorbing’ replace Victim and ‘I’m Blameless’

This can be absorbing in both senses – I absorb nutrients and emotional warmth into my brain and body or I absorb a new understanding about the world. It often means that I am coming to terms with something new or unpleasant, or both. I wear my boots and stay safe…or I don’t wear my boots and have to stay out of the workshop for a day…or I stand on a nail and it’s really unpleasant. I have a shower and get clean…or I have to stay out of the mud for a day….or I have to clean up all the things I made messy. I use my manners and get loads of positive feedback from strangers/others (our kids actually get given loads of stuff from complete strangers because they use their manners so often)…or, because I am very small and shy, I have the option of whispering my response in Mum’s ear…or it is harder for me to find people to help me when I need help…or people don’t seem to like me much. I eat healthy food and treats only occasionally…or I feel hungry quickly, get ill more regularly, have little energy, can’t think straight and find it hard to behave appropriately. There are two keys to being in the Receiver Position – I am coming to terms with a boundary, and I accept the assistance being offered to me, as I learn to accept the boundary. I am not avoiding responsibility. I am not blaming others. I am coming to terms with a bigger picture than what I held before – I am probably learning something I don’t really want to learn.

We might experience sensations of frustration, sorrow, anger and so on but we are not emotionally enmeshed with anything/anyone else in the event or situation. We are in a process of accepting the situation and it’s uncomfortable in our bodies while this happens. Our world picture is expanding – less ‘I’, more ‘it is’.

Which brings us neatly to Mind-Sight.

Mind-Sight is the ability to hold a picture/story/consequence in our heads. If we are enmeshed in a Drama Triangle way of living we can only hold one picture at a time: the picture that supports our view of the world – as we are, not necessarily how the world is. We usually spend our lives trying to force others, ever so sweetly sometimes, to see things as we see them – or we spend our lives saving others from themselves, reasoning with them usually, and protecting them because we are so ‘good.’

If we choose to live in a Serenity Triangle instead – it means we can hold multiple pictures/stories/consequences in our heads at any one time: we can see the pictures that support our view of the world but also the pictures that support another (or others) views of the world – even if we don’t like how the other(s) see things. We don’t have to force others to see the world our way because we can see clearly which triangle they are living their lives on and accept they are, perhaps as yet, unable to change.


We don’t have to force our children to change behaviours, we just have to set the boundary, brace and nurture them through the process of acceptance or consequence. We don’t have to force our lives to change for the better – we simply learn delayed gratification and hold in our mind both the outcome we don’t want and the path leading to it, and the outcome we do want and its path, and take a single step forward each day.

We can absorb the immediate discomfort so to trade it for the long term comfort. Or not. Our choice. Life’s consequence.

Doing the Drama Triangle?

Or Being on the Serenity Triangle?

Which do you choose?

For more innovative and science based ideas about dealing with tantrums

you could buy my book,




About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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5 Responses to TANTRUMS: The Serenity Triangle

  1. This post is just brimming with things to think about. I’m coming back to reread it more than once.

  2. Mamma_Simona says:

    From now on I vow to be more aware of which triangle I’m in and, hopefully, one day the Serenity Triangle will become the “default position” of my life! ❤

  3. Pingback: TANTRUMS: Do You Make Them Worse or Help Them Ease? | Kloppenmum: All About Tantrums

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